On the heels of the antiseptic '70s, Lynda Benglis began making free-form spills of encaustic and latex. Subsequent hard-driving photos, videos, glittered torsos and sexually explicit shapes embraced feminist issues and reconnected artistic process with an instinctual base that was out of fashion.
In the '80s, Benglis began doing what has become her calling card: graceful, shapely knots formed of mesh armatures covered with sprayed-on coats of glistening metals such as bronze, silver or aluminum. When these knots fell under the protective rubric of feminist art they were lauded; when Benglis sifted out specific social and sexual content to concentrate on archetypal organic forms and regenerative forces, cries of "prettified designer art" were heard.
Her current show proves once again that after nine years we are still charmed by the knots' elegance, amazed by their clean craft and myriad tactile and symbolic allusions. Benglis' wall-mounted knots flutter, coil, crinkle and fan; vectors of force pull up, down, then roll in spirals that turn on themselves forming tight bundles of mass and energy. They often span more than 6 feet of wall but look weightless as a silver trinket made to adorn an ear lobe. The billowing accordion folds connote everything from fish fins to ripe pods, from the dramatic flutter of drapery in the Samothrace Nike to the whole metal-junk genre starting with John Chamberlain's metal odes to the myth of the car (many of Benglis' works are named after classic autos).
The new works make it clearer than ever that, whatever her format, Benglis has always been interested in reconnecting her art and her viewers with the decorative, gestural and emotive wellspring at art's most basic core. (Margo Leavin Gallery, 812 N. Robertson Blvd., to Aug. 12.)